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Passion Play at the Duke Of York's Theatre, London

Why my blog became all serious and high-brow I do not know, but this weekend I had the pleasure of being in London once again and saw the simply superb Passion Play at the Duke Of York Theatre.

Like the recently viewed Beautiful Thing, this is an old play given another airing. First performed in 1981 and written by Peter Nichols. It presents domestic woes in the form of a most stylish and inventive format. The two main characters (the married couple Eleanor and James) represented on stage by dynamic alter-egos, wholly revealing that persons innermost thoughts.

The reason for these alter-egos so appearing comes in the gorgeous form of Kate, a sexual predator and "old" man eater, who having buried her previous conquest sets her sights on James, via of all people his wife Eleanor. Devouring and consuming him via her stunning form and rampant persona, the alter-egos appear. First James' and then even more dramatically Eleanors'.

Stoking the fire between the couple is the form of the wronged wife of Kate's former conquest, Agnes. Bitter, twisted and purely setting out to reveal all the devil that is Kate's wrongdoings.

Representing all these characters are what can only be described as a tour de force of actors. When all on stage, the words, the emotion, flow from these stunning professionals is a wonder to behold. From the gentle and silent emotions, to the shear all out shouting carnage of the second half. It really is a joy to behold.

Really to single out a single one of the performers would be cruel in the extreme. Zoe Wanamaker as Eleanor is of course the star name that most would recognise, and in the role she really is superb, from the quiet moments to the heavy moments, with the superb comic timing in between, there really is nothing to fault.

However as her alter-ego Nell, Samantha Bond has all the mannerisms of Zoe Wanamaker, but the lines that Zoe's character would not dare to say. Well at first maybe. Samantha in the second half puts in so much emotion when things turn nasty, you would be fooled into thinking that you really are witnessing the disintegration of a marriage before you.

Tony Award winning Owen Teale as James shines throughout and has the better of the rapartee with his alter-ego Jim, played by Oliver Cotton. These two work together so well despite for the best part of the play them generallly not talking to one another. Oliver provides the best of the comic moments, frequently just with his physical actions while the others talk.

Kate slinks and slides across the stage in various form of dress (and undress) in the glorious shape of Annabel Scholey. She epitomises confidence and sexual tension as James (and pretty much anyone) would struggle to resist her charms given the chance. It is a performance of confidence despite finding herself on stage with the powerhouses around her and can only be applauded for holding her own in the surroundings.

The smallest role of Agnes, is played with bitterness relishly by Sian Thomas. Setting the fire of the whole of the second half with her intercepted mail.

I would also like to mention the ensemble, lesser heralded, and wordless, Kelly Burke and Matt Weyland give their all to delivering the set and playing their multiple roles with delicateness.

The production itself from director David Leveaux and set designer Hildegard Bechtler is complimented superbly with the use of the dynamic stage, with revolving and sliding of the set to excellent effect, right down to that very final moment, it comes up trumps. The music usage to also done with panache and style, with crescendos of music used excellently throughout.

Overall a superb production of what on paper sounds like a complicated play, which given your full attention in reality is never truly complicated. Worth your time without doubt to see a collection of actors at the top of their game performing a fast and excellent script.


Passion Play is on at The Duke Of York's Theatre, London until 3rd August
www.passionplaylondon.com

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